A federal district judge in California upheld a record $185 million punitive damages jury verdict in a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against AutoZone Stores. The verdict is a record for a single-plaintiff employment discrimination claim in the U.S. In addition to the punitive damages, the court affirmed $872,000 in compensatory damages. The plaintiff’s legal fees in the matter, which are payable by the defendant, are over $1 million to date.
Apparently California state law is very generous to plaintiffs as it allows juries to add such amounts when the employment discrimination is linked to the employer’s officers, directors or managing agents. In this case, the court concluded that AutoZone’s internal legal department fell within the statute’s definition for corporate ratification of the discriminatory action.